When I was a teenager, I had friend who delighted in telling pointless stories. He actually was a good storyteller, so you’d be following along closely. But every once in a while, He would just stop relating a tale, leaving you seemingly hanging up in the air. You had questions: “But what did your mom say?” “Did the car end up getting fixed?”, but mostly, when you saw the grin on his face, “That’s it, isn’t it? You don’t plan on saying anything else do you?” He seem to take great pleasure in our exasperation.
Sometimes Scripture does that with me. Just when I think I know where God is going, He takes me out into left field and I’m left with questions.
“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
Matthew 17: 2&3
I find this passage… strange. I mean, most of the gospels defy the physical laws we are so accustomed to in our regular workaday lives. But the transfiguration is different. It’s just… weird… unexpected.
First off, there is verse 28 of the last chapter that really has to be taken together with chapter 17:
“‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom'”.
Here we’ve been talking about the kingdom of God ever since chapter 5, getting the idea that God’s kingdom is anywhere that God rules, ideally in human hearts. The kingdom of God takes on this spiritual and ethical direction that radically changes our ideas of Jesus’ rule expressed in our physical world, almost to the point of making it an invisible (but very real) kingdom.
Now we see Jesus displayed in that kingdom and He has a very real and very physical aura about Him. Matthew describes its manifestation in terms of white light.
The imagery of Jesus as resplendent in light makes sense to me, but why do it all? And even having done it, He makes sure that Peter, James and John don’t tell anyone about it until after His resurrection. It is a sign, a pulling back of the curtain, for three people. Why?
Honestly, I don’t really know. It’s a bit of a mystery to me. But that is okay. God doesn’t not need to fit into my conception of Him. His Word does not need to conform to my need to understand Him, though it does reveal something.
He is beyond me.
Lord, your ways are above mine, your thoughts higher than mine.